The Veteran’s Memorial Highway veers through seemingly endless Nevada desert before it intersects State Route 373, just a short way from the Jackass Aeropark. At this crossroads 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas sits a hucksterish Western-themed gas station (and saloon and brothel and restaurant and mini-mart) called Nevada Joe’s. An asphalt oasis among jagged rocks and Joshua trees, it sits alone in the unincorporated Amargosa Valley. “Open 24 hrs.,” it declares. A bronco-busting cowboy, presumably Nevada Joe, looms above the parking lot.

It may not look like much, but Nevada Joe’s has a claim to fame. It is, by a long shot, the last stop on the highway before the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. That’s no secret. A professional, 50-foot-high billboard announces the “Yucca Mountain Information Center” with an arrow pointing to Nevada Joe’s. Beneath that reads “last service before,” in the same all-caps Helvetica, and then “Area 51” in a yellow, X-Files knock-off font. To the left, an alien – gray, bug-eyed, oddly placid – reminds readers this is “Alien Territory.”

So when I walked inside Nevada Joe’s to ask for information about Yucca – specifically, whether the face-high chain link fence surrounding it could be scaled without a trespasser incurring a bullet wound from some unseen security guard's gun – I was surprised when three men sitting at a table next to the checkout counter looked at me as though I was the alien, freshly descended from outer space.

Photo credit: yolaglloq